Celtic Manor to open smokehouse restaurant: Celtic Manor is to open a smokehouse and grill restaurant. The venue at the Coldra Court Hotel in Newport has been named The Rib Smokehouse and Grill and will offer “house-smoked dishes with southern-influenced flavours”. The Coldra Court Hotel was previously the Hilton until the Celtic Manor rebranded and refurbished the venue last year. The new restaurant opens on Thursday (9 March). A spokesman for Celtic Manor said The Rib Smokehouse and Grill concept was all about “the experience”, with the atmosphere, smells and food in a “modern but industrial dining space”. It said the “intensely flavoured” meat would be treated with an exclusive house rub and cooked low and slow on timber-smoked Redneck ovens.

Pizza Pilgrims launches Shoreditch site, fifth London venue: Pizza Pilgrims, co-founded by Thom and James Elliot, has opened its fifth London site, this time in Shoreditch. The new restaurant in High Street is the company’s first bring your own beer (BYOB) venue. To make the BYOB concept easier, Pizza Pilgrims has linked up with a nearby off-licence that offers Italian wine and craft beer selected specially for diners, with a £2.50 corkage fee. New menu additions at the Shoreditch site include crust dippers, prosciutto pops and tiramisu served in take-away cardboard espresso cups. The restaurant is also experimenting with dessert pizzas, specifically calzones, with customers able to “build their own” by bringing in their favourite chocolate bar, which Pizza Pilgrims wrap in dough and bake. Consumers are also invited to participate in “pizza art”, with the best pizza-inspired takes on classical paintings adorning the walls, Hot Dinners reports. Pizza Pilgrims offers Neapolitan-style pizzas cooked in a 460-degree oven, with its other sites in Covent Garden, Kingly Street in Carnaby, Dean Street in Soho, and Exmouth Market. It also has a residency at crazy golf concept Swingers in the City. The company is set to open sites in Waterloo and West India Quay this year. All restaurants offer a takeaway service and Pizza Pilgrims also operates a Piaggio Ape van called Conchetta at outdoor events.

Soho House to launch its first stand-alone restaurant in New York: Soho House will launch its first stand-alone restaurant in New York in May, with a site for northern Italian concept Cecconi’s. The new venue will open in the up and coming Dumbo area of the city on the ground floor of Empire Stores. Soho House wholly acquired the London-based Cecconi’s concept and has since opened sites in Miami Beach and west Hollywood as well as Berlin, Istanbul and Barcelona. Cecconi’s venues have proved a magnet for celebrities such as Halle Barry, Jennifer Lopez and Gwyneth Paltrow. The Dumbo space will span 8,500 square feet and feature a 250-cover dining room, an outdoor terrace seating 80, and a large “eat-in” bar – all with views from Brooklyn Bridge Park and the East River to downtown Manhattan. Soho House was founded by Nick Jones in 1995 in Greek Street, Soho. It has since expanded to have “houses” around the world. Last month Javad Morandi, who last year invested £14m to buy a half-share in Soho House’s restaurant division Rollout Restaurants, said the division could expand to 100 sites in the UK. Its brands include Chicken Shop, Dirty Burger and Pizza East. Dumbo is an acronym of “down under the Manhattan Bridge overpass”.

Comptoir Group executive chef David Jones joins Arabica ahead of expansion: Former Comptoir Group executive chef David Jones has joined Arabica as the brand looks to refine its offering and lay the groundwork for further expansion. Jones will head Arabica’s bar and kitchen in Borough Market and work with founder James Walters on new product development at the Arabica Food & Spice Company. Prior to working at Comptoir Group, the 22-strong restaurant group consisting of casual dining chain Comptoir Libanais, Shawa Lebanese Grill and Lebanese restaurants Levant and Kenza, Jones was head chef at North African restaurant Momo. Jones and Walters will launch new dishes at the revamped Arabica Bar & Kitchen on Monday, 3 April, while master of wine Sarah Abbott has also been brought in to create a short, punchy list of wines. In May, Walters and Jones will begin hosting monthly market tours and cookery classes at the Cook House in Borough Market, sharing their passion for Middle Eastern flavours. Walters said: “David and I share a playful and passionate approach to the flavours of the east, as well as a love of quality ingredients with real provenance. David brings a wealth of Middle Eastern culinary experience and, coupled with (operations director) Luciano Gonazga’s background, we feel it’s time to broaden our horizons. We’re eager to find new sites and expand the business’s reach.”

Revolucion de Cuba site faces more opposition in York: A York city centre hotel has become the latest to object to plans for a Revolution Bars Group site for its Revolucion de Cuba brand, warning the scheme could ruin its currently successful venue. The Judge’s Court hotel has hit out at plans for a new site in part of the old BHS building, saying the noise and disturbance it would create could put guests off and seriously damage its business. The plans centre on part of the former shop in New Street but the move has already faced opposition from police and neighbouring bars and businesses – all citing booze-fuelled bad behaviour in the city centre. Now Lee Robinson, manager of the Judge’s Court hotel, has said the thought of Revolucion de Cuba in that large site “fills us with fear”. Planning agents from O’Neill Associates have made a formal objection on the hotel’s behalf. It said the inevitable noise and disturbance from a large new bar could threaten the hotel’s viability and leave the grade II-listed building “empty and at risk”.

The Restaurant Group pulls plans for Coast to Coast in Chelmsford: The Restaurant Group has pulled its plans to open a venue for its Coast to Coast brand in the new £150m Bond Street development in Chelmsford, Essex. The American-style chain was supposed to be part of the shopping centre, which opened in September. Coast to Coast specialises in classic American food such as burgers, steaks, ribs, chicken, fajitas, fish, salads, and pizza inspired by restaurants on the Lincoln Highway that links San Francisco and New York. The Restaurant Group hasn’t given a reason for its change of heart. Seven restaurants have opened at Bond Street – Azzurri Group-owned ASK Italian, Bill’s, better burger brand Byron, international cafe restaurant brand Jamaica Blue, Casual Dining Group brand Las Iguanas, Greene King’s seafood restaurant Loch Fyne, and Prezzo. The complex also features a John Lewis store and Everyman Cinema. There are 19 Coast to Coast sites in the UK, with the nearest to Chelmsford at Festival Leisure Park in Basildon. In January, The Restaurant Group instructed agent Savills to sell 23 of its former restaurants in England, Scotland and Wales, including a Coast to Coast site in Newcastle.

Champions League double header nights are ‘great news for pubs and clubs’ – BT Sport: Bruce Cuthbert, director of commercial customers at BT Sport, has said the introduction of “double-header” nights during the group stage of the Champions League is great news for operators of pubs and social clubs. BT has secured the rights for all UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League football until the end of the 2020-21 season following a competitive auction process. From the 2018-19 season, pubs will be able to show Champions League double-header nights, with live matches kicking off on Tuesdays at both 6pm and 8pm. The new deal gives BT Sport exclusivity across all live games, highlights and in-match clips of both competitions. Cuthbert said the removal of ITV’s highlights package and the fact the Champions League is set to be even stronger from 2018-19, with a minimum of four participating teams guaranteed from the English, Spanish, German and Italian leagues, was also great news for pubs as it guaranteed more games between the top teams. He said the staggered kick-offs would be a “natural way to keep people in the pubs and clubs for longer” and would help venues to grow their business. Cuthbert said: “From three years ago, when we got the Champions League, to extend that deal for three years from 2018-19 is extraordinary. To have a long-term plan in place is brilliant, we’re thrilled. Having four good teams (from England, Spain, Italy and Germany) from the early stages means we know we will have the quality. Having double headers means people don’t have to choose between two brilliant games. Pubs can get people in early and keep them there. The lack of ITV highlights means the pub will be the place to watch it. The product is stronger and more valuable for the pubs and clubs sector moving forwards. The 6pm and 8pm slots are really strong for the sector. We plan to keep on building this as a product, the feedback has been exceptional so far.” When asked about possible price increases for operators following the new deal, Cuthbert said it was “far too early to discuss” but said BT was sticking to its promise made last month that it would not change its pricing structure while operators faced additional cost pressure from wages, inflation and business rates.

DHP Family relaunches new-look Garage in Islington with ‘immersive’ club night: Live music operator DHP Family has relaunched renowned Islington music venue The Garage by holding an “immersive” club night. The company, which owns venues including Rock City in Nottingham and The Borderline in Soho, has created Precinct Presents…, a series of events that will take over the whole complex every Saturday, changing its theme every six weeks. The first event, Lost In Tokyo, transported guests into a “dark and dystopian Japanese-style street scene”, with clubbers invited to dress up and enter a multi-sensory world. In addition to refurbishing The Garage’s 600-capacity live music room, DHP Family is set to open an all-day bar – the General Store – that will be a coffee bar by day and craft beer and cocktail bar at night. A new venue is also set to launch upstairs – Thousand Island – hosting breaking acts and collaborative club nights. DHP Family will also relaunch Borderline this month, with a new design and live music and nightlife programming to re-establish the venue as a “London icon for the next generation of music fans”. DHP is altering the layout of the 300-capacity venue to create a “flowing space that provides the best possible experience for performer and audience, from dance floor to green room”.

Weight Watchers moves into healthy food box delivery market: Weight Watchers has moved into the direct-to-consumer box market with the launch of a new series of healthy food boxes. The company has partnered with fresh food delivery company Bearfaced Groceries to launch the WW Smart Kitchen food box which, it said, simplifies healthy eating and guides people to make healthier food choices. Weight Watchers pointed out that the move makes it the first weight-management brand to launch a weekly subscription-based healthy food box service, with the meal plan solution available to members and non-members. Each WW Smart Kitchen box includes a wide range of fresh foods and healthy ingredients from leading UK butchers and farmers, along with Weight Watchers recipe cards. Recipes have been developed by Weight Watchers and specialist chefs, with the SmartPoints values of all meals calculated by nutritionists to ensure the service fits into Weight Watchers’ programme. The boxes are available in a variety of sizes and options, from a two-person to a four-person box, with an option of three days or five days of recipes and produce. Prices range from £35 to £75. Bearfaced Groceries’ buy-to-order model sees insulated temperature-controlled boxes delivered directly to the customer’s door on the day the ingredients arrive from the producer. Mark Simmons, commercial director at Weight Watchers UK, said: “We are thrilled to be extending our product range with this exciting and innovative concept. Working with Bearfaced Groceries, we have access to some of the UK’s top butchers and farmers, enabling us to deliver the freshest, finest ingredients right to the customer’s door at a time that suits them. We have a role to play in tackling the obesity crisis, now more than ever before, and WW Smart Kitchen is the latest addition to our suite of products to help people make informed, healthy meal choices for the whole family.”

Luxury Family Hotels puts Thornbury Castle on the market for £8.5m: Luxury Family Hotels is selling Thornbury Castle, one of the only Tudor castles in England to be used as a hotel, for offers in excess of £8.5m through agent Savills. The grade I-listed castle dates to 1330 and houses 28 en suite bedrooms, one of which was occupied by King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn in 1535. It previously received the first Michelin star awarded in the UK outside London while under the ownership of Kenneth Bell. On-site there are atmospheric private dining facilities, conference facilities, indoor and outdoor spaces licensed for wedding ceremonies, and a vineyard. There is also the potential for further development of the hotel and grounds. Martin Rogers, head of UK hotel transactions at Savills, said: “Thornbury Castle offers a unique opportunity to an investor looking to own a historic hotel. The fantastic reputation of the business and the sympathetic Tudor interiors have ensured the hotel remains popular with guests and we expect significant interest while marketing the asset.”

Cheltenham-based Sibling to triple production following dedicated distillery launch: Cheltenham-based Sibling Distillery, which is owned by four siblings aged 25 or younger, is set to treble production following the opening of its first dedicated premises. Clarice, Cicely, Felix and Digby Elliott-Berry began producing Sibling Gin from a corner of their father’s brewery in Keynsham Road, Cheltenham, in 2014. At the time, they were thought to be the youngest distilling team in the world. Output in Sibling Distillery’s first year of operation was 400 bottles per month. Last year, the company’s turnover hit £300,000 and the new distillery in Dowdeswell Park has capacity to produce 1,600 bottles of gin per month. Clarice Elliott-Berry said: “Our old place was tiny. We had reached the stage where we were always on top of each other. Not only were we tearing our hair out, we couldn’t match demand. We had two fermenting tanks, which allowed us to make just one batch of gin every ten days. We needed at least four tanks, a new boiler and an extra still. At Dowdeswell Park there’s loads of space. We already have two new fermenting tanks. Our office has moved from the kitchen table to a proper room with desks and chairs. We’ve got a tasting room, a kitchen and a little shop. We can host tastings and tours.”

Darwin & Wallace appoints operations director: Darwin & Wallace, the Imbiba-backed operator, has appointed Polly Barnes as operations director to support its growth plans. Barnes has more than 15 years of experience in the hospitality industry, including five years as head of training with Wagamama, before she moved on to Canteen and then Byron as a regional operator. She has also provided consultancy services to a number of businesses. Following a year of like-for-like sales growth at its venues No 11 Pimlico Road in Chelsea and No 32 The Old Town in Clapham, Darwin & Wallace also launched No 1 Duke Street in Richmond and No 197 Chiswick Fire Station in Chiswick last year. The company’s fifth site will open in the Battersea Power Station development, Circus West Village. Darwin & Wallace managing director Mel Marriott said: “It is testament to our existing team that we have managed to achieve so much in the last four years. Polly’s energy, experience and enthusiasm mirrors ours and will make a formidable addition.” Barnes added: “I’m thrilled to be joining a very successful and dynamic business and am looking forward to a long and successful future with Darwin & Wallace.” Marriott founded the company in 2012